All Things New

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                        No Ordinary King* (Watercolor on Canvas)


On Sundays I lead a group of 18 to 30 year olds.  As of late, we have been working through J. Ellsworth Kalas' book, Easter from the Backside.  The most compelling chapter for me was his chapter on Ezekiel and the Dry Bones.  This particular passage seems to embody what Easter is all about.  As this Lenten season comes to a close, and as we walk through this holiest of weeks, I have been drawn, over and over again, to this passage in Ezekiel, Chapter 37, The Valley of Dry Bones:



1The hand of the LORD was on me, and he brought me out by the Spirit of the LORD and set me in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. 2 He led me back and forth among them, and I saw a great many bones on the floor of the valley, bones that were very dry. 3 He asked me, “Son of man, can these bones live?”

   I said, “Sovereign LORD, you alone know.”

 4 Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones and say to them, ‘Dry bones, hear the word of the LORD! 5 This is what the Sovereign LORD says to these bones: I will make breath[a] enter you, and you will come to life. 6 I will attach tendons to you and make flesh come upon you and cover you with skin; I will put breath in you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the LORD.’”

 7 So I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I was prophesying, there was a noise, a rattling sound, and the bones came together, bone to bone. 8 I looked, and tendons and flesh appeared on them and skin covered them, but there was no breath in them.

 9 Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to it, ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Come, breath, from the four winds and breathe into these slain, that they may live.’” 10 So I prophesied as he commanded me, and breath entered them; they came to life and stood up on their feet—a vast army.

 11 Then he said to me: “Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They say, ‘Our bones are dried up and our hope is gone; we are cut off.’ 12 Therefore prophesy and say to them: ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: My people, I am going to open your graves and bring you up from them; I will bring you back to the land of Israel. 13 Then you, my people, will know that I am the LORD, when I open your graves and bring you up from them.14 I will put my Spirit in you and you will live, and I will settle you in your own land. Then you will know that I the LORD have spoken, and I have done it, declares the LORD.’”

Footnotes:

a.  Ezekiel 37:5 The Hebrew for this word can also mean wind or spirit.

  

Ezekiel had it rough as a prophet.  He was called to be a prophet when Israel was in exile in Babylon.  His job as a prophet was challenging and disheartening.  Then God does something unique.  He leads Ezekiel out to a valley of bones, really dry bones.  God says to Ezekiel, "Can these bones live?"  Ezekiel essentially (and wisely) says, "God only knows?"   Ezekiel puts the ball back in God's court.  Then God tells Ezekiel to preach to the bones.  I have to give Ezekiel some credit here.  I probably would have been like, "Say what?  You want me to do what, Lord?"  But Ezekiel trusts in God enough to obey.  Ezekiel begins to preach to the bones.  Then God, in God's transforming power begins to make these dry bones that seem beyond help to have new life, to transform before Ezekiel's eyes.

These bones represent the people of Israel.  The people of Israel have come to that point where they have lost the ability to hope.  Yet here, God is saying to them not to lose hope.  God is saying that God can make a way where there seems to be no way.  Out of God's love for God's people, God is always making a way where there seems to be no way, God is always making all things new.  This passage in Ezekiel acts as a preview of Easter.  This passage shows that God, in God's very nature, is an Easter kind of God, a resurrection and transformation oriented kind of God.

Typically when we think of Easter we are drawn to New Testament Passages.  Yet Easter is rooted in the very beginning.  Early on we had it all . . . a perfect garden where all God's creatures got along and lived in harmony with one another.  But early on, self got in the way.  Early on we decided (and continue to decide each day) that we know what is best and we will do it our way.  As such we keep causing a riff to form between us and God, us and one another, us and creation, and even a riff within our own selves.  God has been making a way back for us.  God has been making a way to bridge those chasms we keep creating.  


To be human as God intended is to have loving fellowship with God and to reflect the divine nature in our lives as fully as possible . . ..  Tragically, as Genesis 3 recounts, we are unfaithful to that relationship. The result is a thorough distortion of the image of God in us and the degrading of the whole of creation. Through prideful overreach or denial of our God-given responsibilities, we exalt our own will, invent our own values, and rebel against God . . .. Because of our condition of sin, we are separated from God, alienated from one another, hostile to the natural world, and even at odds with our own best selves. Sin may be expressed as errant priorities, as deliberate wrongdoing, as apathy in the face of need, as cooperation with oppression and injustice. Evil is cosmic as well as personal; it afflicts both individuals and the institutions of our human society. 

(By Water and The Spirit, Page 7-8)


God decided that God would come in the flesh, walk and live among us, show us how we are to live and love.  And God was willing to even be crucified for our sake.  In God we see the perfect community, the perfect perichoresis (dancing around) of the persons of the Trinity.  We are called to join in this dance.


 “Sin means that people are stepping out of the dance, corrupting its beauty and rhythm, crashing and tackling and stomping on feet instead of moving with grace, rhythm, and reverence.  Then, in Jesus, God enters creation to restore the rhythm and beauty again.”

 

Brian McLaren, A Generous Orthodoxy (Grand Rapids, MI:  Zondervan, 2004), 56.


As we walk through this week and journey toward the cross, I think it is important to think about:  “How does God save us through Christ?”  The atonement (the understaning of how God saves and reconciles us) includes the cross, but is also about more than the cross.  The saving work of God involves the birth, life, teaching, work, death, resurrection, and ascension of Christ.  “Jesus saves simply by being born, by showing up, by coming among us.” (McLaren, 56)

Through Christ, God is reconciling the world to God’s self and restoring the world to what God created it to be. 

McLaren continues describing this saving work by saying:  


“In Jesus’ birth . . . two wonderful things happen.  First, God takes the human life of Jesus into God’s own eternal life, and in so doing Jesus’ people (the Jews), species (the human race), and history (the history of our planet and our whole universe) enter into – are taken up into – God’s own life.  God’s life, love, joy, and power are so great that all our death, hate, pain and failures are eradicated, swallowed up, cancelled, extinguished, and overcome by being taken up into God.  In this way Jesus will ultimately bring blessing to the whole world, to all of creation.  Second, as humanity (and all of creation) enters into God through Jesus, God also enters Jesus’ people, species, and history.  And by entering all creation through Jesus Christ, God’s heart is forever bound to it in solidarity, faithfulness, loyalty and commitment.  God will never give up until all creation is healed of its diseases, cured of its addictions, retrained from its foolishness, reclaimed from its lost state.  Jesus saves by coming, by being born.” (McLaren, 56-57)



“Given the depth of our alienation from God and the power of our bondage, we need something more than an inspiring example; we need a liberating power which comes as a gift of God’s grace through the Spirit.”[1]  We need God in God’s self to make the way.

Restoring work has begun and sins are forgiven[2] way before Jesus shed his blood on the cross.  So how does the cross fit into my understanding of the atonement?  “Jesus death on the cross unmasks our fundamental human condition.”[3]  The cross reveals what human nature does with God in its midst.  We respond with violence.  Because of who we are and who Jesus is, the cross (or something just as tragic) was almost inevitable.  Jesus, out of his love for us, chose the path of surrender, humility, and sacrificial love.  Jesus was no ordinary king.  The cross reveals just how alienated we are from God.  “The cross breaks the power of sin, in part, by showing us ourselves in our estranged relationships through collective delusion from the one whose name is Love.”[4]  The cross brings an end to the need for sacrifice (because Christ is the ultimate sacrifice) and shows us the depth of God’s love for us.  The cross calls us to live and love sacrificially.  The cross shows us that God connects with us in our suffering and God truly is Immanuel.  God willingly dies for us, bears our sins, delivering us from the sin of violence.  The incarnation "might not make sense, but I believe it does make love."[5]

Because of the incarnation – God in the flesh living, teaching, dying, being resurrected and ascending, I realize my need for God and my desperate need of a savior.  By God’s grace I endeavor to keep turning (away from my sinful ways) toward God;[6] furthermore, I am compelled to belief.[7]  Jesus lived and died for my sake (and for the sake of the whole cosmos), and because of him and his perfect love I am striving to learn to live in right relationship with God, self, neighbor, and all of creation[8] and I am endeavoring to live my life patterned after him.

The passage in Ezekiel and the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Christ remind us that nothing is beyond God's reach.  There is always hope for healing and new life.  Here in today's passage we see Easter already at work, we see God already making all things new.

Back at the end of January, when I was preaching at Clergy Kids, I heard the praise team sing a profoundly compelling song called Dry Bones by Gungor.  As we walk toward the cross and beyond, as we continue through this Holy Week and to live lives as Easter People, I will close with this song:

You can listen to Gungor's Dry Bones here:  

          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vJWHZnZ9E6k


Dry Bones by Gungor

My soul cries out
My soul cries out for you

These bones cry out
These dry bones cry for you
To live and move
'Cause only You can raise the dead
Can lift my head up

My soul cries out
My soul cries out for you

Jesus, You're the one who saves us
Constantly creates us into something new
Jesus, surely you will finds us
Surely our Messiah will make all things new
Will make all things new

My soul cries out
My soul cries out for you

These bones cry out
These dry bones cry for you
To live and move
'Cause only You can raise the dead
Can lift my head up

Jesus, You're the one who saves us
Constantly creates us into something new
Jesus, surely you will finds us
Surely our Messiah will make all things new
Will make all things new

Life is breaking out, it's breaking out
Life is breaking out, it's breaking out, it's breaking out

And life is breaking out, it's breaking out, it's breaking out

Jesus, You're the one who saves us
Constantly creates us into something new
Jesus, surely you will finds us
Surely our Messiah will make all things new
Will make all things new


Credits :
songwriters: gungor, lisa; gungor, michael
© worshiptogether.com songs


Let us Pray:  Only You Lord can transform the dry bones in our lives.  Only You can make all things new.  Only Your love has the power to transform our very lives.  May we be willing to die to self and live for you, acoording to Your love, Your will, and Your way.  We surrender the dry bones of our lives to Your healing and transforming love.  We are not alone.  You truly are an Immanuel kind of God.  May we continue to experience the power of resurrection each and every day.  May the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of the King of Kings forever transform us and continue to make all things new.  Amen.






*I started No Ordinary King in preparation for Christ the King Sunday.  It sat unfinished on a rack for months (since the end of November).  I finished No Ordinary King last week in time for Holy Week.

Footnotes:

[1]  Inbody, Tyron.  The Faith of the Christian Church:  An Introduction to Theology.  (Grand Rapids, Michigan:  William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2005), 223.

[2] Cf. Mark 2:1-12, esp. vs. 5

[3] Inbody, 225

[4] Inbody, 226

[5] Attributed to Debbie Blue, founding pastor of House of Mercy

[6] Repentance

[7] Justifying Grace

[8] Sanctifying Grace

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